Monday, April 18, 2011

SHORTER ROSS DOUTHAT: Obama wants to tax the rich, which proves that he doesn't care what happens to black people.
NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, about the rightblogger reaction to Atlas Shrugged. A surprising number of the brethren admit the film stinks, but still direct their followers to pay for tickets to it in order to teach Hollyweird and Obama a lesson. It reminds me, as if I needed reminding, that conservatives remain the children of Zhdanov, dreaming of a day when they can take over what they are pleased to call "the culture" and make everyone dream the same dreams as they.

Among the outtakes: Something called Politically Empowered says,
This is one of the few movies in my memory to actually champion the creators and doers instead of the 'Mr. Smith' in Washington, who really ends up more times than not being a combination of Bernie Madoff and the Godfather or a combination of Barney Frank and Barack Obama.
I'm used to them defending Ebenezer Scrooge, but it is something to see them turn on Capra. I would have thought they'd prefer to see Smith as a dedicated Tea Party person like Rand Paul, fighting Claude Rains as Senator Rino. I guess anything from the age of FDR is too tainted even for analogy.

UPDATE. Oh Jesus, just saw this at Pundit Press:
My take? (Drum roll please...)

Perhaps the greatest movie ever made.

I put it up there with Saving Private Ryan, and Schindler's List.
God, imagine Atlas Shrugged directed by Spielberg: Indiana Galt and the Atmospheric Engine.

UPDATE 2. In comments, mds wonders why a Randian would endorse Schindler's List when Schindler was so miserably lacking in the virtue of selfishness: "Seriously, did this reviewer watch a pro-Krupp propaganda film and get them confused with Schindler's story? Because Krupp managed to come much closer to the Randian / schmibertarian ideal."

Sunday, April 17, 2011

NEW ON THE BLOGROLL: Thanks Jay Ackroyd for introducing me to The Bobblespeak Translations, a fun distillation of each Sunday's yakfests. It's been going on for years and I just woke up to it. Shame on me. Sample from this morning:
[David] Gregory: Senator will the Tea Party raise the debt ceiling or will you destroy the USA

[Sen. Mike] Lee: we will only vote for it if we also amend the Constitution to require a President to wear his birth certificate at all times around his neck on a sandwich board

[Alan] Greenspan: I don’t understand what is going on

Gregory: Did Betsy get your pudding?

Greenspan: Debt is bad
Having done this sort of thing myself, I know how much fun it is, but it requires greater dedication than I can muster to watch these horrible people on a weekly basis.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

UNMITIGATED GALT. Whatever understandable prejudice you might have against Ayn Rand, you have to admit that the giant concrete block of her novel on which Atlas Shrugged: Part I is based could make a movie of some sort.

Consider all that happens in it: Dagny Taggart, who wants her family's railroad to succeed on its own merits, is opposed by her weakling brother James, who prefers that it succeed via corrupt influences. Conglomerate head Henry Rearden wants success on his own terms, too, but is opposed by, well, the whole wide world, which instinctually recoils at his greatness. These two superior beings inevitably meet, are inevitably attracted to each other, and inevitably couple, after which they together work to find the solution to their mutual dilemma.

OK, it's ridiculous, but no more so than Rand's The Fountainhead, out of which King Vidor, Gary Cooper and Patricia Neal made a silly and operatic but perfectly entertaining film.

That was what I hoped for as I watched the thing last night, because as much fun as it is to slag rotten movies, it is much better to be surprised by a good one, especially when you've reached the stage in life where two hours in front of a stinker sets you dreaming of the warm couch and leftover sesame chicken that you left back home. But it is my great regret to inform you that Atlas Shrugged: Part I is neither good nor good-bad, but bad-bad-bad-bad. I dreamed, not of sesame chicken, but of my own swift and merciful death, and that of the director, not necessarily in that order. It is not a pleasurable surprise, not a hoot, nor an outrage; it is Rand's granite crushed, reconstituted, and spread across the screen with steamrollers.

Taggart and Rearden are supposed to be important and accomplished producers of wealth, but we never see them doing anything productive. Rearden smiles as he watches steel poured in his foundry, and Taggart walks around purposefully with folders, but neither is shown engaged in actual work. In fact the filmmakers seem to go out of their way to avoid showing it: At one point Taggart appears outdoors at a worksite, and Rearden compliments her on her easy manner with the workers, but we never see Taggart actually interacting with them.

It's as if the filmmakers couldn't imagine such a thing (nor can I: "Hello, factotum, your brute strength is useful to my enterprise, keep up the good work!"). In fact, it's as if they thought that the sight of either character doing anything like what real executives do would spoil the effect. Because executives make deals, and Taggart and Rearden can't deal with anyone but each other; the only thing like negotiation they perform is their own meet-cute, in which haggling over price becomes a romantic pas des deux. Everyone else they encounter, besides subordinates, is unworthy of their efforts, and thus can only be browbeaten or belittled.

Consistent though this may be with Objectivist mythology -- noble producers standing among, but not of, ignoble looters -- it destroys any opportunity for actual drama. Atlas Shrugged has several villains, yet none of them is allowed to effectively challenge Ragny Dearden. The union boss and the government factotum are wusses who are easily glowered down; the director of the State Science Institute -- "the last science center on earth," we are informed, all the others having presumably been turned into global warming propaganda centers -- only appears to tell us how pathetic he is; and the D.C. players never even get to meet Tagny Raggart. It's like a version of The Dark Knight in which the Joker says "I don't understand you, Batman," and Batman says, "I don't think you'll ever understand, Joker," and the Joker slouches off to get drunk at the Ebbitt Grill while Batman smiles at his glistening Batmobile.

The short shrift given the D.C. mob especially annoyed me, because their ringleader Mouch is played by the wonderful actor Michael Lerner, whom I thought might at least do something interesting if given a big confrontation scene with one of the principals, instead of being left to sit around being superbad with the other bad guys. In fact, Lerner is not even allowed to be interesting in his own milieu; when Taggart's supertrain succeeds, we see Mouch hearing the news on the phone; I hoped his pause before reacting presaged an explosion of some kind. Then he spoke as if nothing much had happened, and it became painfully obvious that Lerner had just been waiting for a cue, and that the phone voice had ended a beat too soon -- which is the opposite of what anyone should be noticing in a scene like that.

This setup does no favors to the actors playing Dagden and Rearly, either. Taylor Schilling and Grant Bowler show some chemistry in their negotiation duet, but after that they aren't allowed do much with one another until their ghastly sex scene. They show interest and admiration, but actual romance was presumably deemed too weakly looter-human for them. (In early scenes, Bowler actually starts to give Schilling a puppy-dog look, before dialing it back to something more suggestive of colonic irritation.) We've all seen movies in which lovers are obliged to restrain their feelings for one another (Cousin Cousine and Remains of the Day come to mind), but this is the only one I can think of in which, once the lovers finally have their night of passion, they emerge pledged to mutual pursuit of a perpetual motion machine.

(Rearden's married, by the way. This is quickly dismissed as an impediment, because he and his wife hate each other. There's so much wrong with the movie that I can't even care about the morality of this, but I do wonder whether South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford was thinking about Atlas Shrugged when he went hiking with his true love on the South American-Appalachian Trail.)

The movie is so starved of humanity that the big turning-point scenes are about as thrilling as a Congressional budget negotiation. When the supertrain goes on its controversial trip over the bridge, we know that the bad guys want it to fail, and that the good guys want it to succeed. Drama, right? But not only are the good guys incapable of failure -- they're incapable of doubt, too. Not even the guy who's driving the train seems worried. So the train accelerates (the fastest any train has ever gone in America!), it approaches the bridge, we cross-cut, see the wheels going around, and -- guess what? It succeeds, just like we always knew it would. If the soundtrack swells it's only so we can't hear D.W. Griffith spinning in his grave.

There is only one moment of true feeling and drama in the whole movie. Reardon has made a bracelet out of his precious supermetal for his hated wife, who doesn't understand it/him; at a party, said wife expresses her contempt for the bracelet to Taggart; Taggart impulsively offers to trade it for her expensive necklace. Suddenly, for a couple of seconds, the actors come alive -- because they at last have an ambiguity to play: A simple transaction that has deep emotional meaning underneath. The movie comes alive, too, because we have been wrenched from our preordained path onto something vivid, theatrical, and mysterious. Then Rearden interrupts, and Atlas Shrugged gets back on the supertrain to nowhere.

Other observations:

- The country at the time of the film (2016) is in some kind of chaos which is not well explained -- the Middle East is in crisis, gas is absurdly expensive, and plane travel is moribund, which somewhat justifies the otherwise perplexing and anachronistic interest in railroads. Poverty is widespread, signified by beggars and trash fires. No attempt is made to tie all this together, but it is also suggested that the nation has been given over to sociamalism -- the opening montage shows protesters marching with signs touting those twin menaces, Martin Luther King and communism, and the D.C. guys talk about sharing the wealth in ways that have never been heard in Washington, nor anywhere in the United States except perhaps Louisiana in the time of Huey Long. I suppose this is the film's Tea Party tell, but I notice that it seems not to affect the actions of the principals in any direct way. This is made comically clear when Taggart, dressed in fancy duds, bolts from her brother's limo and walks home through an urban hobo jungle. I know the filmmakers were in a rush, but I marvel that they resisted the temptation to have Taggart explain her natural superiority to a bum, after which he would cower before the force of her logic instead of raping her and taking her purse.

- A shadowy figure appears at intervals to give the good Galt news to select entrepreneurs. (Sample pitch: "I'm simply offering you a society that rewards individual achievement.") His targets then "go Galt," vanishing to be met up with at the Gulch later in the series. The last to slip the surly bonds of socialism in this film is the fat white guy who gets screwed by Taggart's brother and later becomes Dagny's and Rearden's best pal. He leaves his oil fields behind with a sign saying "I am leaving it as I found it" -- though when he acquired the property, it was probably not, as he leaves it here, in flames (to be put out by the union-looter fire department), nor unsuitable for any future use. But I expect the TP people will nod with understanding at his self-evident producer-wisdom.

- It strikes me that the heroes of this series are enabled in their Galt-going journey by an as-yet unseen super-metal and a perpetual motion machine discovered behind a hidden door. The secret ingredient in Rand's Objectivist tale is magic beans.

Friday, April 15, 2011

WHAT'S THE DEAL WITH THESE KIDS AND THEIR TEXAS INSTRUMENTS CALCULATORS? Jonah Goldberg on vegans and vegetarians:
That VegNews story reminds me of a longstanding curiosity I have about the ethics of veganism and to a lesser extent vegetarianism. Much of the industry (movement?) suffers from profound meat envy. So many dishes are attempts to simulate the experience of eating meat. That’s understandable except so many vegan types insist we’re not supposed to eat meat. If that’s the case why come out with fake beef stew?
For research Goldberg apparently glanced at the few frozen vegetarian items at his local convenience store as he dug past them to get a Fudgsicle. I'm not remotely a vegan, and even I know meat substitutes are merely the fast food of dilettante herbivores. See here, here, and here, or for that matter the kitchen of any actual vegan. For every "unchicken" entree there are about a dozen items proudly announcing their veggie provenance.

Plus he quotes a faux-P.J. O'Rourke article ("If meat is murder, why hawk products that look like the mutilated corpse?") that he says he wrote "years ago," in which he bitches about how bad soy pizza tastes. Which is like bitching about French food because you didn't like a croissant you had at Au Bon Pain in 1987.

Sometimes I think Goldberg is a performance artist, purposefully choosing to write on the subjects he understands least.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

SOME CONSERVATIVE TRIBUTES TO THE 150th ANNIVERSARY OF FORT SUMTER. "Southern Avenger" Jack Hunter notes in a video that Rachel Maddow has mentioned the role of nullification doctrine in the Civil War. He retorts that some Northerners wanted to split from the South over slavery; also, Lincoln at one time supported the right of rebellion in the abstract, as well as the Fugitive Slave Act, so he "was for slavery before he was against it," ha ha. (Also "flip-flopping.") Hunter brings this up, he says, "not to prove that slavery wasn't a major issue during the Civil War," but that it was "quite frequently a wedge issue exploited by those on both sides for the purpose of empowering political, corporate, or special interests."

"If a liberal like Maddow's primary reason for denouncing nullification or secession is these concepts' popular association with the Old South and slavery," he asks, "would Maddow have respected the Fugitive Slave Act, or nullified it?"

The video is thus called "Liberals for Slavery," and ends with gush about "the left's collectivists' historical narrative" and pictures of Lincoln's fellow tyrants, FDR, Lyndon Johnson, and Barack Obama.

If the video is too long for you, or the supercilious voiceover reminds you too much of authority figures from South Park slowed to 16 RPM, you might take in commenters at Hit & Run denouncing the War of Northern Aggression.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

THE TELLING DETAIL. This is all good fun at Tbogg's place, but the Megan McArdle cooking video he mocks is just a multimedia add-on to her article about upscale kitchen trends. It is a perfectly fine piece of reporting, and even makes some good points about those trends. But it contains what to me is a striking presumption:
Schwefel says, “The core of my business is that 40- or 50-something woman who has more time than she did 10 years ago and is rediscovering kitchens.”

In other words, cooking is increasingly a leisure activity, especially at the high end of the market.
Especially! You see it throughout the story: "...the $250 Breville toaster ovens … the Japanese knives with their own display stands. Why are we spending so much money on a place where we spend so little time?" "Perhaps we’re spending so much on our kitchens precisely because we’re using them less," etc.

Who's this "we"? I'm cooking at home plenty, because it's cheaper. I'm also using less exalted cuts of meat than I used to. I expect a lot of people are these days. Recession, you know.

So who's the audience for this article? It's the target market for $200 knives and $350 Margarita makers. If the number of Sur la Table stores has grown in five years "from 49 to 83—despite the worst economy since the Great Depression," it's not because Joe Sixpack said, screw the rainy day fund, I'm buying a convection oven. It's because even in the "worst economy since the Great Depression," there are plenty of people who are still doing really, really well.

At one point McArdle says
According to Mintel, another market-research firm, 60 percent of restaurant-goers say that the recession has changed how their family spends money, and one-quarter plan to cut back their restaurant spending in 2011. But this can’t explain the decades of movement toward higher-end kitchens and kitchen equipment.
No explanation is needed: The people who are going out to eat less need to go out to eat less. The people with baroque kitchens don't. They can blow tens of thousands of bucks on a home cookery and leave it spotless for guests to inspect. They could do this before the recession, and they can do it now.

I wouldn't normally waste this much bile on a trend piece. But it does appear in The friggin' Atlantic, under the byline of their business and economics editor. And it's a little jarring to be reminded so forcefully that our commentariat is basically talking not to people like me, but to the Travel + Leisure and Cigar Aficionado crowd.

In conclusion, tax the rich. Tax their asses off.

UPDATE. In comments, Whetstone makes good points, illuminated by a link to his excellent article at Chicago magazine's 312 blog on molecular gastronomy.

I also appreciate something Riggsveda said: "The gentrification of food and cookware in the last 15 years is not confined to cooking but an almost inevitable phenomenon that seems to infest every interest that fires the public imagination. If people are liking it, someone will find a way to make it more expensive."

This expresses well a problem with gentrification generally, and tracks with McArdle's and others' attitude toward residential gentrification; though they're allegedly free-market enthusiasts, they seem to think neighborhood uplift is a favor the moneyed do the poor (sometimes backed by the testimony of apocryphal bus riders), rather than something to poor do for themselves, which attracts the rich, who then colonize it and make it difficult for others to afford. But at least the foodies don't price you out of your pots and pans.
OBAMA'S DEFICIT SPEECH. The actual deal will probably be a bit of a mess, if not a hell of a mess, and we peons will probably get it at least glancingly in the neck once again.

But even so, I think the idea of an America that "prizes individual freedom and our commitment to one another" and seeks to accommodate both makes more sense and better politics than the Randroid dystopia offered by the Republicans. So there's that.

I'm glad that Obama focused on this, and patiently, even painstakingly, laid it out in moral and historical terms, talking about the millions "we'd be telling to fend for themselves" under the GOP proposal. The "social compact" he described is no longer top of mind among our citizens, alas, due to the death of civics education and decades of policy promoting a I-win-you-lose philosophy. But the only way he can succeed is if people at least dimly remember what America is supposed to be. I find it touching at least that he assumed many will.

And who knows, he may even be right. And for those who don't get it, maybe the idea that roads and bridges must be fixed, and children educated and workers provided with skills, and that our energy resources are not unlimited, may get through to those who have been paying some attention to the way things work and the world around them, which may comprise a majority of our fellow citizens.

It's too bad that I'm so pleased and even surprised to hear the President of the United States talking common sense, but that's where we're at.

I also appreciate that Obama told it like it is about the "deeply pessimistic" assumptions of the Republican plan, though I would have preferred "cynical" as a modifier and the insertion of a few obscenities. And congrats to whoever came up with the bit about creating a $200,000 tax cut for a rich President by asking 33 seniors on Medicare to come up with $6,000 each. I appreciate also the little smile he gave as he acknowledged he'd receive "fierce" criticism from Republicans for whom tax cuts for the rich are "an article of faith" -- which was confirmed for me in real time by the conservatives on my Twitter feed. (John Podhoretz says, "This speech is like a paid ad for 'Atlas Shrugged: The Movie,'" and I agree -- it will rouse the few million who think goldurn gummint is sociamalist to assemble in their klaverns and select theaters and feel the outrage while the world goes on outside.)

We'll see about the details. I'm always interested to hear what these guys think a simplified tax code is -- it certainly won't be Steve Forbes' but it probably won't be Jerry Brown's either. And the "debt fail-safe" sounds like term limits to me -- a promise that'll be easy to get around. But the best we can ever expect from modern Democrats is a slightly larger small piece of the pie, and it looks as if Obama might actually try to get it for us. On those very limited terms, I'm very cautiously semi-optimistic.

UPDATE. For a more dour review, see Joshua Holland. He finds the speech "replete with impossible-to-fulfill promises" and thinks we're getting screwed. Well, yeah, what else is new?

Ah, I see Jonah Goldberg has reacted:
I listened to Obama’s speech on my drive down to North Carolina for my talk tonight. I thought it was a breathtaking tour de force of dishonesty and tendentiousness for all the reasons covered around here. It was also just weird and annoying.
Sounds like someone missed his rest stop.
A small gripe: he keeps saying “win the future” like it’s a phrase A) everybody understands and B) everyone has a positive reaction to. Neither is the case.
Goldberg knows nothing about marketing, which is unsurprising coming from an officer of a commercial enterprise that is always begging for change.
More substantially, Obama’s speech was just plain reactionary. It was an amazing about face for a guy who ran in 2008 on a “yes we can” message of fundamentally “transforming” America. Now the philosophical thrust of his approach is that we must not change the America we “grew up with.” Uh ok. I guess his 2012 slogan will be “Let’s All Go Down With the Ship — Together!”
Goldberg understands the word "reactionary" about as well as he understands the word "fascism."

His claim that Obama's defense of Social Security is inconsistent with his transformative message makes no sense -- was Obama promising to transform Social Security into a voucher program? -- except as an example, albeit poorly expressed, of the traditional rightwing reaction to Democrats who talk back. It's very like the reaction of a bully whose victim suddenly pops him in the nose -- hey, he wasn't supposed to do that!
SERVICE ADVISORY. I made a few little tweaks here, including the addition of social media hoo-hah at the end of each post. They're from AddThis, which was the only vendor I could find that works with Blogger Oldschool, the template to which I stubbornly cling because I fear change. If anyone has a better idea feel free to let me know.

UPDATE. I ask for help, and all I get is jokes about hoo-hahs. Hmmph!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

TODAY'S CONSERVATIVE TALKING POINTS. Item one:



Also: "Was Glenn Beck Ousted From Fox by the Saudis?" Apparently Rupert Murdoch's heir apparent James recently moved to New York. Murdoch fils, says Diana West, "is known for his trash talk about Israel (sez the Palestinians 'were kicked out of their f— homes and had nowhere to f— live'), his green enthusiasms (News Corp. is the first entertainment conglom to be 'carbon neutral') and for being a former hip hop impressario (wow; not my dream date)." Within days, Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity were denouncing the burning of a Koran, and Beck was out at Fox. Connect the dots!

"That stuff's been buttoned up for ten years now on Fox," says West; "no reason to spoil a good brand now with free inquiry into the ideology that drives our mortal enemies." Don'tcha see? Now that Beck's magic whiteboard has been erased with extreme prejudice, the coast is clear, and the Murdochs will visit sharia, environmentalism, and hip hop upon us -- just like they always wanted! What America needs to combat the Murdoch menace is a right-wing news network.

Finally, this from Conservatives 4 Palin: "CNN Poll Shows that Governor Palin Probably Leads If You Take Huckabee, Trump, and Bachmann Out of the Poll." And if wishes were horses, Palin would probably shoot one. I still think Palin has a chance, but if she's going to get there, she'll have to knock her rivals down herself before she can climb over their bodies. If America's so fucked that it would entertain President Palin, other lunatics will surely want that opportunity for themselves.

Monday, April 11, 2011

THE HE-MAN WOMAN-HATERS CLUB. David French is inspired by Kay Hymowitz' book about how feminists made men into pussies:
"My wife would never let me do that."

I can't tell you how many times I've heard those words. Most commonly, I hear it when I discuss some of our more extreme family choices of the past five years, like joining the Army Reserves, volunteering to deploy to Iraq, serving for a year during the Surge in Diyala Province, the extensive travel of my civilian job, and even my thriving video game hobby and all-around science fiction geekery.

My response is simple: "Have you even tried to ask?" The answer is almost always negative. There's a look of resignation, and we move on.
This is an odd mix. Their wives won't let them play video games, read science fiction, or enlist in the military? Maybe French's fellow males are just making up excuses for not joining him in Iraq or cosplay. I so would, dude, but, you know, the missus.

French instead reads the situation to mean that bitches be all up in their manhood.
...the ideal man becomes—in many essential ways—a woman: emotionally available, always eager to talk, never afraid to shed a tear, and ready, willing, and able to shoulder the household workload.
Because if you talk to your wife, occasionally show your feelings, and help with the dishes, how can you possibly kill a bear, serve in Iraq, or go to Worldcon?

French sees another problem: The girly-men and their female keepers misunderstand the Bible.
There's an alternative, of course, and the alternative is biblical. No, not the soft-spoken, ultra-sensitive version of "biblical" that dominates the evangelical small-group, but the robust, aggressive, and honorable example of the actual men of the Bible. There, men go to war at God's command. There, men face death, far from home, for the sake of Truth. There, men confront the powerful and call out injustice. There, men actually lead.
I suspect this article is really advance work for a sequel to 300 called 666, in which God, played by Vin Diesel, commands an army of righteous, oiled-up soldiers of Christ to take out the Whore of Babylon.

Or maybe it's just an effusion of the sort that long predates Hymowitz's book, not to mention feminism, made by guys who are convinced the world would be a lot better off if the stupid girls weren't always around to ruin it.
NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, about the rightblogger consensus on the budget deal, which is that Planned Parenthood is evil. Up next, the AARP. Once these twin menaces and NPR are eliminated, America will be on sound fiscal footing again.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

ANNALS OF LIBERTARIANISM. You may remember Bryan Caplan, the libertarian intellectual who insists that women were freer before they had the vote because of socalism & stuff, and who wants to create a clone of himself because "I want to experience the sublime bond I'm sure we'd share." What's he thinking these days? Per Will Wilkinson, this:
[T]he most realistic long-run path to liberty is boosting libertarians’ Total Fertility Rate to 3.
These people think sociology is animal husbandry with less field work.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

SIDNEY LUMET, 1924-2011. There's at least something worthwhile in all his films that I've seen. Daniel, for example, was awful, but I still get goosebumps when I recall its child's-view funeral sequence, with Paul Robeson's "There's a Man Goin' Round Takin' Names" in the background.

Lumet had several successes, and they remind me that while most hit movies don't bear re-watching (really, who wants to curl up again with The Eyes of Laura Mars?), all of Lumet's do. When he got good scripts he knew what to do with them. Dog Day Afternoon and Network are crazy stories, and he kept them urgent but sufficiently grounded that even mass audiences could accept them. He set excellent actors to perform outrageous actions in high-pressure environments, and took the results down without much underlining. (Try to imagine the Ken Russell versions.)

This isn't to say he was without style -- God, no, look at this -- just that he knew the value of restraint, and was at his best, I think, when the situation damanded it. The Verdict is for the most part a very quiet movie, which forces us to focus on the words and, especially, faces -- James Mason's "Welcome to the World" speech, and the pan to Charlotte Rampling, is a great example. Lumet and Paul Newman really make us lean forward for the summation scene. It starts with Newman small and off-center in a crowded long shot -- and stays there until he moves to the jury: "Today you are the law." Then his face becomes the focus. It's not the only way it could have been done; it just seems, now, the only right one.

He obviously liked to work, and was game for anything, whether a musical (The Wiz), black comedy (Bye Bye Braverman), or high-toned Broadway adaptation (Child's Play, Equus). He started in TV and, years later -- when it had been awhile between hits -- he went back to TV for the ill-fated 100 Centre Street. Red lights didn't stop him, and he kept following chances until he got to make Before The Devil Knows You're Dead, a capstone any filmmaker could be proud of.

His work was uneven, but I don't know that we'd have the good films he gave us if he husbanded his energies like Kubrick, and made movies less often. His was not a ruminative talent. He got the idea, made the picture, and moved on. This resembles the method of the hack, but Lumet was clearly not only talented, but artistically ambitious -- he actually got an NYPD trilogy (Serpico, Prince of the City, Q&A) made in Hollywood; who among our auteurs could do likewise? They could sell a superhero property, of course, but a three-film examination of big-city police and political corruption? It wouldn't even occur to them. Which is just another reason to mourn Lumet's passing.

UPDATE. You really ought to read Glenn Kenny on the subject, and his 2007 interview with Lumet.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

BUT THIS TIME THE ADVANTAGE IS MINE. All respect to Jack Steuf of Wonkette for introducing us to The Young Cons' honky rap "Obama, Reid, Pelosi," in which the three-headed Democratic menace is said to be "easily combatable by Ryan, West, and Christie/That's the crew who's dirty filthy" (and with a Ricochet meme-check, yet). But in the spirit of the great Sadly No battles, I produce my trump card -- a 9/11 truther rap video:



When I talk about it, you call me a conspiracy theorist/ Your body doesn't need to listen, I need your spirit to hear this/ And once you learn the truth, you'll never look back/ I just get pissed off when people don't look at the facts/ Steel buildings don't just fucking collapse…

Also, "The (craziest?) forces/ Are givin' rabies to horses," and "We gotta band together, do what we can to spread the knowledge/ Pass out documentary DVDs at every college." Celebrity citations: Alex Jones, Charlie Sheen, Rosie O'Donnell, Seth Green, and Erica Jong. Why, it's practically Rosicrucian.

Your move, Steuf.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

MORE NOTES FROM THE URBAN HELLHOLE. Here's one of those staples of modern social discourse, the weeping over gang-infested urban hellholes, where "drug addicted young women desperately sell their bodies in the age of HIV; their unwanted, uncared for children grow up as best they can," and "children and teenagers can be fooled into thinking that the images generated by our pleasure-seeking and irresponsible commercial entertainment complex define the meaning of life."

Author Walter Russell Mead posits the "failure of the blue social model" to prevent the Warriors hellscape in which I supposedly live. (As a marginally-employed New York City resident, I assume his concern extends to me.)

Reading these things from New York is always amusing, and Mead may have sensed he would have this effect, as partway through he expands his purview to embrace slummy cities worldwide, so my own Lefferts Gardens address gets lumped in with Kibera and City of God. Looks much worse now, doesn't it?

Here's another good bit:
Restless, violent and poor urban communities have been with us for a long time. What often seems to happen is that poor people migrate to the cities in hopes of more exciting and rewarding lives...

But many of those migrants found sadder fates; cities were not very healthy places, and the combination of poor sanitation and sewer facilities, bad diet and poorly preserved foods, poverty and violence meant that many cities had to constantly draw on the countryside to keep their populations up. In the last 150 years, the flow to the cities increased with the mechanization of agriculture and improvements in transportation — and developments in public health meant that more of those migrants lived and had children, even if they failed to find the kind of upward mobility they hoped for.

What this means, not only in the United States, but in cities around the world, is that we now have something new: vast urban conglomerations whose populations include second, third and even fourth generations of people who know nothing but the city — and lack the opportunity and ability to earn their way out of the slums through normal, legal channels.
Two words that do not occur in this historical analysis: "labor unions." You will be unsurprised to learn that the author is unconcerned with any means of providing jobs and decent livings to underprivileged urbanites. In fact, it kind of sounds like he's not sure those "developments in public health" aren't a mixed blessing at best, seeing as they curse future generations to life in metropoli.

What's Mead want to give them instead of the "Great Society blue social model," then? Jesus.
If we are serious about changing lives in the inner cities, we need to think about strengthening the capacity of these churches.
He does suggest that these God squads dispense social services along with the Gospel, which is a good idea, as Republicans are working hard to make sure that the government can no longer do so.

Link found via Ole Perfesser Instapundit. I assume he was just attracted to the city-hating, though it's possible he was trying to shore up his libertarian cred.

UPDATE. Like the crackling of thorns under the pot is the laughter of our commenters. "I've been waiting thousands of years for someone to suggest religion as the answer to social problems," claims Nom de Plume. "The major portion of Mead's research was listening hard to Stevie Wonder's 'Livin' For The City,'" hypothesizes Glenn Kenny. And mds sees the solution: "You know what a godless urban wasteland like Lower Manhattan needs? A religiously-motivated community center!"

More seriously, R. Porrofatto directs us to Mead's "Black And Blue 2: Blacks Flee Blue States in Droves" (the folks in my neighborhood must be holdouts, then), where Mead does in fact refer to unions, thus: "high public union membership," "high costs of public union urban services," "the interests of teacher unions," "high wage scales for unionized public servants," etc. So he's not unaware of ways to improve poor people's wages and hopes for the future -- he just doesn't approve of them. He does recommend "more effective government... to ensure that American citizens are not undercut in the labor market by desperate illegals," and of course Jesus, who must be wondering about now what he did to deserve this kind of treatment.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

THE GOLDEN AGE OF CONCERN TROLLING. So Michelle Obama was talking about this childhood obesity thing:
US First Lady Michelle Obama's campaign against childhood obesity took a personal turn when she said she is paying more attention to a key body fat measurement for her own daughters.

Obama said she was surprised to learn that her daughters' body mass index, or BMI, numbers were "creeping upwards," she wrote on yahoo.com's website.

"I didn't really know what BMI was," she said.

"I certainly didn't know that even a small increase in BMI can have serious consequences for a child's health," she added, recommending that all parents inform themselves about the vital weight statistic.
To rebut, ladies and gentlemen, TX Trendy Chick, whose "heart breaks for these little girls":
This is how distorted self-image and eating disorders come to be, Michelle. It’s bad enough when you’re picked on by the kids at school or the boy down the street, but to have your own mother leading the charge? Shame on you. President Obama has gone out of his way to address bullying and its consequences – what happens when the bully is the woman he’s married to and the victims are his own children? Words have power and they can cut so deep that the wound will never completely heal. I’ve been there; I know. And I know these children deserve better.
So I guess the next Tea Party thing will be to demand Sasha and Malia be removed from the White House by Child Protective Services, and placed with some nice hillbilly couple who will let them have Fudgsicles for dinner.

To be fair, George W never pulled this kind of thing on his own kids.

UPDATE. Some commenters are against BMI as a standard of health, an arguable point. This post is not about nutritional science, however, but about the TX Trendy Chick's accusations of child abuse against the First Lady, and by implication the thinking behind it.

Conservatives are generally crazy on this issue. You may have noticed the recent Matt Ridley Wall Street Journal editorial on "Free-Market Solutions for Overweight Americans," including "healthy living vouchers." Commentary has focused on the imagined efficacy or lack of same of such schemes, but no one says anything about the alleged non-free-market approaches Ridley wants to supplant:
School posters, virally marketed videos, healthy-eating classes, mandatory swimming lessons, minimum school-recess times, celebrity chefs in charge of school-meal recipes, bicycle lanes, junk-food ad bans, calorie-content labels, hectoring physicians, birthday-cake bans, monetary rewards for weight loss—they've all been tried, and they've all largely failed.
First of all, this list conflates foreign and domestic programs -- there is no U.S. ban on junk food ads, so far as I know -- and I don't know what the fuck he means by "mandatory swimming lessons" (phys ed, maybe?). Secondly, Ridley seems to think handing out government vouchers, which are worth money, is more "free-market" than tweaks to government advertising budgets, public school policies, etcetera. By the wingnut handbook definition, I guess, everything the (Democratic) government does, even at the most local level, is socialism, while the giveaways Republicans approve are free-market.

As for BMI, when the government moved to include these figures in children's vaccination records, conservatives cried double secret Hitler. We sane people can argue about the usefulness of the measurement and the psychology of health programs from children, but the conservative position on such matters is basically, "Black preznit wanna pour sociamalism on mah vittles."
I WROTE ABOUT SOMETHING BESIDES POLITICS and it felt pretty good.

My essay is but a modest accompaniment to the Village Voice comics issue, out now, in which boring old words are replaced by beautiful graphic novellas. Michael Musto as comics! Robert Sietsema food review as comics! Etc. Get it in print if you can, confuse your grandchildren.

Monday, April 04, 2011

THE MANSION ON THE HILL. Kathryn J. Lopez gets one of those poetic patriot emails about how America has been plumb took over by folks what hain't got no right:
Imagine the Republic as a “mansion on the hill”.

The mansion was built with the blood of the current owners’ forefathers.

The heirs to the mansion, with no personal investment in the property, became complacent and lazy leaving the mansion for days and weeks at a time only to find increasing disrepair of the building and grounds when they returned from time to time.

The heirs spent more and more time away on hedonistic journeys.

Finally the heirs came home to find mansion occupied by squatters of all types from leftist politicians to pot smoking aging hippies & revolutionary cadres.

A small group of the former residents evicted (some of) the leftists politicians and retreated to discuss what to do next.

Some began to form groups to plan restoration of the property, others to evict remaining squatters, others to plan fumigation — most continued their hedonistic pursuits...
K-Lo sees this as a sign that people are "impatient" with her Republican buddies for not moving faster, and takes in stride the idea that "leftists politicians" come to power by squatting rather than by election, and must be removed (poetically, you understand) by "former residents" who own the house by right.

This is the thinking behind all the claims of Obama's illegitimacy, from plain birtherism to the more high-flown claims that Obama is an "alien" (again in the poetic sense). They worked it with Obama's Inauguration (where's the Bible?) and his appointment of Hillary Clinton to Secretary of State (no emoluments!), and every so often gin up another crisis of legitimacy in which an unremarkable Executive action is portrayed as the Thin End of the Wedge.

The punch line? When issues do come down the pike in which the President's Constitutional authority or lack of same bears discussion -- e.g. Libya -- what we get from conservatives is mostly self-serving bullshit. You really have to throw up your hands when the Cato Institute comes up with howlers like this:
It is probably naive to think that Congress would have blocked this war, but by exercising its atrophied war powers Congress at least might have caused the war to be waged with more wisdom and forethought.
Words to stir the soul! Well, I guess you can't get the yokels to the barricades with an anti-war pitch. So keep telling 'em about the mansion on the hill.

UPDATE. Lots of fun comments ("Ironically, this is also the story of the Playboy Mansion" -- Jay B). Some of you, though, have the impression that K-Lo wrote the email herself, which I hope you didn't get from me. Then again, maybe she was just being modest, and wanted The People to get all the credit.
THE ELEPHANT, THE BLIND MAN SAID, IS VERY LIKE A COMMAND ECONOMY. Rising food prices nationwide, exacerbated by crop shortfalls (including a disastrous wheat failure in Russia), combine with high personnel costs to cut restauranteurs' margins in San Francisco, so the cost of dining out there is going up.

The Lonely Conservative knows how to interpret this: "Everywhere you look, we’re paying the price for central economic planning... If the environmentalists, unions, anarchists and other progressives get their way, we’ll be living in the dark ages." Curse these union thug schoolteachers and their high food prices!

Also, a special note to his readers:
On the bright side, you can sign up for daily deals through Groupon for discounts on eateries and plenty of other establishments in your area. These days you have to save a buck wherever you can.

**Note, if you sign up for Groupon through the link above I will receive a small referral fee. But I do recommend it. We recently purchased lift tickets to a local ski mountain for half price...
Well, it's more dignified than Goldline
NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, about Donald Trump's Presidential-slash-guerrilla marketing campaign. It'd still be a gift that keeps on giving even without the birtherism, but fortunately our national descent into lunacy assures that we get the amusing add-ons, too. (Bonus track: Trump is telling people Bill Ayers wrote Dreams for My Father. Maybe for an encore he'll tell us he's heard the Michelle Obama Whitey tape.)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

GRANTLAND RICE CAN REST EASY. National Review Online now has a sports blog. Here's something by Fred Schwarz:
You won’t see many cricket items in this blog, but yesterday’s India-Pakistan match, which India took by the narrow margin of 29 runs on its home pitch at Mohali (there, don’t I sound like I know what I’m talking about?), had geopolitical ramifications, as these two fierce rivals (in sport and everything else) completed the event peacefully and amicably, with the two nations’ prime ministers watching the action together. Predictably enough, the Obama administration has released a statement praising the match as a diplomatic breakthrough; soon, presumably, we can expect the president (who must be quietly mourning the loss by his beloved Pockystahn) to announce a global sports initiative aimed at building world peace through hitting, kicking, and throwing balls.
These people ruin everything they touch.
LOOK AWAY, LOOK AWAY. The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus is trying a new approach, at least so far as I know:
The Georgia Legislative Black Caucus filed a lawsuit Monday against the state of Georgia seeking to dissolve the city charters of Dunwoody, Sandy Springs, Johns Creek, Milton and Chattahoochee Hills. Further, the lawmakers, joined by civil rights leader the Rev. Joseph Lowery, aim to dash any hopes of a Milton County.

The lawsuit, filed in a North Georgia U.S. District Court Monday, claims that the state circumvented the normal legislative process and set aside its own criteria when creating the “super-majority white ” cities within Fulton and DeKalb counties. The result, it argues, is to dilute minority votes in those areas, violating the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution.
DeKalb's mostly black; Fulton's more mixed -- per Wikipedia:
The demographic make-up of Fulton County has changed considerably in recent decades. The northern portion of the county, a suburban, predominantly white area that is mostly Republican, is among the most affluent areas in the nation] The central and southern portion of the county, which includes the city of Atlanta and its core satellite cities to the south on the other hand, is predominantly African-American, overwhelmingly Democratic, and contains some of the poorest sections in the metropolitan area.
The new cities were all created since 2005, and are very white. At issue is whether the courts, which have ruled on traditional political redistricting under the Voting Rights Act, can also do so on the incorporation of new cities.

Let's see what the brethren have to say about it. Occidental Dissent:
A bunch of African-Americans (niggers) think the new Atlanta suburbs in Fulton and DeKalb counties are “too White” and have filed a frivolous lawsuit against the State of Georgia in federal court to revoke their city charters.

The African-American plaintiffs claim their “voting rights” are being violated, not because Bull Connor or the Klan is stopping them from voting, but solely because they are outnumbered by racially aware, White conservatives who understand the politically incorrect connections between “diversity,” crime, and fiscal irresponsibility in Fulton County...

No one in their right fucking mind wants to live under the incompetence and corruption that comes with an African-American controlled city government. While niggers aren’t exactly zombies, they have overrun Atlanta in much the same way. They also have reinforcements coming from up North.
Up next:
JEW-AMERICAN GOVERNMENT INCITES NEGROES TO ERADICATE WHITES IN GEORGIA
But let's not judge the issue on these fringe figures. Let's look at what mainstream rightblog Jammie Wearing Fool, frequently linked at Memeorandum, has to say about it:
Black Legislatures File Lawsuit To Disband Majority White Cities

No, that headline is not wrong. Now I don't want you folks in New England or the Midwest getting too excited just yet. This sort of thing can only happen in the south because of the most onerous piece of legislation ever passed, which is used until this day to keep whitey in his place, called the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
By the time it filters up to Ole Perfesser Instapundit and the other big-timers, of course, it'll be about "hypocrisy" or some shit.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

JUST SO LONG AS YOU SPELL THE NAME RIGHT. I guess the big news is Bill Maher working blue. Here are some of the rave reviews, accent on the rave:

"Bill Maher doubles down — calls Sarah Palin the ‘c’ word," breathlessly reports The Daily Caller. "It’s a liberal favorite and they are nothing if not predictable," says Lori Ziganto. "Foul mouthed name calling from the LEFT," hollers Flap's Blog. "Bill Maher, Turd Merchant extraordinaire," says the self-unaware Underground Conservative, "is all yours, members of the Hate Left. You own him." "Always interesting when people struggling for acceptance and tolerance are so flippant about the trashing of others," says Howard Portnoy of a positive review of the performance. Some of the brethren call for Maher to be beaten up.

Glynnis MacNicol is on the right track for a while: "Sounds like a typical comedy show, which obviously is not to say it's okay, simply that comedy shows are frequently raunchy, offensive, and in bad taste." But then: "It's not like there's a lack of substantial ways in which to criticize (and mock) Palin." It seems she, like the rest of them, believes a comedy act should be like Meet The Press.

I guess they've somehow managed to miss Richard Pryor, or they'd be posting bleeped-out videos of him and complaining about Obama's reverse racism.

Monday, March 28, 2011

THE LIBYA SPEECH. Obama made his case for intervention, and along with Juan Cole's it looks pretty good. But I still respectfully dissent.

Though the differences between this action and the Iraq invasion are obvious, so is at least one similarity: The likelihood that, however much we tout the handoff to our allies, we will remain involved in Libya for years. Bosnia is the more positive example, and Obama hinted that Libya, tucked between two nascent democracies, would go similarly. This is a fond hope, as the region remains volatile, and I fear the new Libyan government will have need of our "intelligence, logistical support, search and rescue assistance, and capabilities to jam regime communications" -- and some other things that went unmentioned this evening -- for a long time to come. And under the circumstance I don't see how we could refuse.

I do see the benefit in our involvement, and appreciate Obama's kinder-gentler model of support for home-brewed revolutions as opposed to the Orwellian "Your enemy is not surrounding your country, your enemy is ruling your country" approach of Bush and the neo-cons. And it's certainly consonant with what Obama laid down in his Cairo speech. It'd be nice to get people on that side of the world thinking of us the way South Americans thought of us in the days of Simon Bolivar, rather than the way they thought of us in the days of Pinochet.

But for all its advantages, this approach still leads back to the same place we've been stuck for nine years -- and, seen a certain way, for much longer than that. I can believe Obama is very different from the imperialist Westerners who've been fucking over small states for generations, and still believe that the best way for him to show his difference is to stay out of their affairs insofar as possible. We don't have a great track record since World War II, and while Obama appears to think that the best way to fix that is to do foreign intervention right this time, I would prefer a cooling-off period. Always leave 'em wanting more.

The thing is on, anyway, and we'll see how it goes. Maybe it will turn out that "the values that we hold so dear" can be transmitted by targeted bombing runs. I hope so. It would certainly be a new thing in my lifetime.
BACK ON THE CHAIN GANG. The passing of Joe Bageant at a relatively young age is a damn shame in any case, but it's sad for more than his fans that his work hasn't gotten the attention it deserves. AlterNet has several of his articles, any of which could be recommended, but I especially like the one about the sex offender in whose Kafkaesque post-release treatment Bageant found a case study of the efficiency and cruelty with which the state squeezes citizens whose rights no one will defend. It's least-of-my-brothers stuff in the manner of Nelson Algren from a self-proclaimed redneck who saw how inhuman our way of life has become, and how good we've gotten at fooling ourselves about it. I don't always agree with his conclusions, but he looked at the world as if he were part of it, a perspective conspicuously absent from the writings of most of the manicured sociopaths who get taken seriously these days.

UPDATE. Speaking of sociopaths, though I can't vouch for the condition of his nails. Sample: "Much like Adorno’s 'Authoritarian Personality' or Hofstadter’s 'Paranoid Style,' Bageantism is a faux-analysis, a make-believe political sociology..." This by way of explaining that Bageant didn't know what real people were like. Self-awareness is not McCain's strong suit. Neither is class.
ROLLING BLACKOUT. This weekend I told you that World Net Daily heard Bill Ayers making a blazingly obvious joke about writing Dreams for my Father and reported, in all seriousness, that it meant "Ayers admits (again) he wrote Obama bio." Though I doubt such people listen to me, I figured word would get around somehow, common sense would prevail, and that would be the end of that.

Guess what's on Memeorandum today?


From super-edumacated Jeff Godlstein to the shortbus commuters Weasel Zippers, nine out of 10 wingnuts agree: It's not a joke unless it's about Michael Moore being fat.

Sadder still is Freedom Eden, who seems to sense that something's amiss but won't say so, and goes for the bank shot in desperation ("Ayers had to know that bringing up the controversy at all was not something that would help Obama"). Tell the truth and shame the devil, FE.

Kudos to John Hawkins for gently telling them what the joke was and whom it was on.

UPDATE. I see at Right Wing Nut House that Goldstein is defending his position the way all great men do --
As someone who knows a thing or two about interpretation...
-- by asserting his credentials. Schoolly G continues:
...I don’t need John Hawkins or Rick Moran to point out Ayers’ tone of sarcasm. What I’m interested in is the rather pointed tone of the sarcasm - it’s too deliberate, and the question seems too staged - and suggesting that, while Ayers wants to joke it all away, he also very much wants credit. It’s who he is. It’s who they all are.
Goldstein should consider a new career as an Investigative Heckler. He can go around to comedy clubs and yell, "I KNOW WHY YOU SAID THAT, YOU'RE NOT FOOLING ANYBODY!"

Sunday, March 27, 2011

NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, about the conservative answer to Earth Hour, called Human Achievement Hour, in which the faithful blazed their lights and fired up their appliances to demonstrate opposition to environmentalism.

In a late entry I missed, Peter Karwowski declares victory:
I did notice that common sense is definitely taking hold.

Driving home at about 9:00, I didn't notice any lights dimmed along the stretch of Yonge Street between Richmond Hill and North York. In fact, when I got home at about 9:15, I took a spin around the block and lo and behold, lights were on everywhere. In fact, it seemed that some houses aside from mine had extra lights turned on to celebrate the occasion.

It was heartwarming.

At that point, I got home and turned out the lights. The point has been made.
My own neighbors were wearing jackets or coats outdoors today, which they must have meant as a sign of disbelief in the Global Warming Fraud. I mean, what else could it mean?
RENT SEEKING. Nicole Gelinas is still beating the drum for an end to rent stabilization in New York, but now she has a new angle -- stabilization advocates should give up because anti-stabilization has already won:
If you look at how much government-protected tenants pay, they’re not getting a break. Sixty-two percent of “rent-stabilized” households paid between $800 and $1,750 monthly in 2008. But 56.8% of vacant non-regulated apartments rented in the same range.

Man bites dog: What the pols and the market have done worked.

Former Gov. George Pataki allowed vacant apartments to escape regulation above $2,000, so between 1994 and 2009, nearly 100,000 units have become unregulated — spurring landlords to invest and compete for tenants. Government bureaucrats have been reasonable about allowing landlords to raise the rent on “stabilized” units, and landlords have maintained them better.

New York has what the pols have long said was their goal: a healthy market...

If the rules expired (with some exceptions for the elderly and poor), chances are things would remain much as they are today.
That is, the apartments still cost an arm and a leg to rent -- and you're much less likely to luck into a deal than you used to be -- but every so often your landlord might re-grout your shower tiles. Thanx, free market! You're every bit the miracle we expected.

So why is she even talking? I thought at first she just wanted to gloat at the rent-poor peons (this is a person, after all, who thinks New Yorkers don't pay enough to ride the subway). But it soon became clear she's in it for the class war:
New Yorkers have gotten tired of people who’ve gotten cheap apartments because of connections or luck...
No poll data cited, of course. This is conservative boilerplate on the order of their anti-union propaganda -- it's based the notion that, if someone else is getting a break, citizens ought to feel resentful and punitive, instead of asking why the system can't be fixed so that they could get similar breaks for themselves. Don't ask for more, in other words -- only ask that others get less.

And in case you were tempted to take her seriously:
In “mixed income” buildings, one person can pay $3,000 a month for a one-bedroom while the person down the hall pays $1,200, not because of appreciable differences in income but because of chance. If the market was allowed to do its job, that $1,200 may go up — but that $3,000 would also likely go down.
Does anyone on God's green earth believe that a landlord getting $3,000 a month in New York City is going to lower the rent, ever? Only if the city collapses -- which a few more years of this bullshit might accomplish.
YA GOTTA DUMB IT DOWN FOR THEM, BILL. You may remember the conservative notion that Bill Ayers ghost-wrote Dreams from My Father for Obama. Back in 2009, Ayers joked with a wingnut about the claim ("if you can prove it, we can split the royalties") -- which the wingnut took as an admission of guilt.

Like many such articles of faith, though its media moment in the sun has passed, the brethren still believe, and collect signs and portents they imagine support it. Now there's this joking exchange at the end of a recent Bill Ayers appearance:



From the transcript :
Ayers: I think [Dreams from My Father]... is quite good.

Question: Also, you just mentioned the Pentagon and Tomahawk …

Ayers: Did you know that I wrote it, incidentally?

Question: What's that?

Ayers: I wrote that book.

Several audience members: Yeah, we know that.

Question: You wrote that?

Ayers: Yeah, yeah. And if you help me prove it, I’ll split the royalties with you. Thank you very much.

Laughter and Applause
Guess that joke never gets old. I got that transcript, and the video, from World Net Daily. And guess what their headline for it is?
Ayers admits (again) he wrote Obama bio
It's too bad Ayers didn't think to say that if anyone believed he wrote the book, he had a bridge he'd like to sell them; he'd be a rich man now.

Friday, March 25, 2011

STAND UP AND CHEER. The makers of Atlas Shrugged: The Movie are soliciting video clips of fans saying "I am John Galt" so they can be "part of Atlas Shrugged history," i.e. marketing.

Having seen these entrants, I will say that if they scrapped the story and just strung together 90 minutes of these clips, I believe we could get it into some European festivals.









Thursday, March 24, 2011

TEA PARTY POOPERS. At Big Whatever, Phillip Dennis tells those RINOs to shape up or ship out:
“What is it about the November election that Republican leadership doesn’t understand?” That is the first question I ask any Republican elected official who works in Washington. Each response from the numerous conservative Congressmen has been some variation of “they just don’t get it.” The [unnamed] Congressman who I met with said basically what I already knew, “House leadership has no plan to cut spending, repeal ObamaCare and is not conservative"...

I asked a few friends in November if they really believed John Boehner or Mitch McConnell would ever vote to defund or repeal ObamaCare. Each said “not a chance” at that time. So I give a final word of warning to the Republican leadership: The tea party is not your friend nor are you ours!
Meanwhile at National Review:
Tea Partiers Favor Romney

Mitt Romney captures 24 percent of the Tea Party vote, according to a Pew poll released yesterday. Mike Huckabee came in second...
Some revolution.
LANFORD WILSON, 1937-2011. He died yesterday morning. Wilson hadn't brought out a new play in years, but a revival of The Hot l Baltimore is now in previews at Steppenwolf in Chicago, and his most popular plays are still done regularly by resident theaters. They're crowd pleasers, and they come by their pleasing fairly. Wilson had a great gift for what you might call poetic realism if that term didn't sound so high-falutin'; his characters are grounded and believable even when (as often) they're eccentric, but their language is musically, painstakingly tuned. Any of them -- a stoner musician, a mountain man, an accountant, a prostitute -- might suddenly launch into an aria that will have you momentarily forgetting everything else, immersed in the power and beauty of the words.

Back in the late 70s I had some friends at the Circle Rep, and so got to see Fifth of July and Talley's Folly in their first incarnations, sometimes from the tiny lighting booth in the back. The Wilson play that knocked me out, though, was a little-known one-act called Brontosaurus, about a wealthy, worldly New York antique dealer who takes in her teenage nephew, who has become a suburban mystic-ascetic and a living rebuke to everything the dealer believes. I don't know if anyone can match the fire Jeff Daniels and Tanya Berezin brought to it, but someone ought to try.

UPDATE. The playwright Robert Patrick (Kennedy's Children, The Haunted Host) lived and worked with Wilson back in the day, and has a lovely video reminiscence here.
FORTUNATE IN HIS ENEMIES. In case you're wondering why Obama's doing well in polls despite the fact that America is a fucking mess, take a look at this report from Brian Bolduc at National Review's The Corner:
I just spoke with Michael Openshaw, a member of the North Texas Tea Party. Because I couldn’t fit his comments into my story, I thought I’d add them here. Like other tea partiers, Openshaw takes a pass on the constitutional question — “I’d leave that to constitutional lawyers” — but jumps at the chance to reprimand President Obama for his recent behavior: “You launch a war and go off to Rio?”

More interesting, however, were his comments on the prospect of a Tea Party protest of the Libya campaign. “To go out and publicly rally while our service people’s lives are on the line is not something we’re willing to do,” Openshaw says. “We respect them too much — not the so-called commander-in-chief. You will not see us out there waving signs.” For more tea partiers’ reactions to the military effort, see here.
Not everyone will recognize that "launch a war and go off to Rio" as part of the curious propaganda drive to present the President's recent diplomatic mission as a vacation. But the "so-called commander-in-chief" bit will certainly stir in the imaginations of many normal, middle-class Americans an image of a guy wearing a Napoleon hat and a strait-jacket.

Openshaw clearly can't help himself, but if you read The Corner regularly, you know that such news-like dispatches as Bolduc's are not so much journalism as company-newsletter copy -- they usually consist of a NR guy asking a prominent Republican why Obama sux, and the Republican going on about why Obama sux for several paragraphs, with the NR guy occasionally inserting stuff like, "Prominent Republican cautioned his fellow Republicans against over-confidence" and "Prominent Republican pointed to a recent Rasmussen poll..." etc.

That Bolduc or whoever thought Openshaw, an obvious crackpot, would make a good representative of a major conservative constituency goes a long way toward explaining why people are reluctant to turn on Obama.

UPDATE. Much argument in comments as to whether Obama in fact sux. To badly paraphrase an old saying, he's worse than anything except the current alternatives. But that may not be good enough in 2012; the traditional triangulation devices by which Democratic presidents survive may not function so well in a crap economy. Then all the Republican candidate will need is a convincing line of bullshit -- not a sure thing from what I've seen so far, but doable.

This is why I'm not counting out Palin, despite her current trench in the public's affection. If things stay/get bad enough, even her mindless optimism may convince a desperate nation to take a chance on her. Hell, a few years ago they voted for a black guy!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

THE FORGOTTEN MAN. Libya is doing strange things to the brethren. Dan Riehl comes out against the neo-cons!
Below is how Kristol, Kagan and Co. began co-opting the Reagan legacy in 1996 for neo-conservatism. Call it human rights, or democracy, in some ways, the foreign policy of the neo-conservative below - one I doubt we can afford going forward - has more in common with today's Left as described by [Stanley] Kurtz, than it does with Reagan's. In a sense, some number of intellectuals from the Left broke with them years ago. Unfortunately, their intellectual tradition seems to have landed them in the very same place all these years later. Sure, the politics are different given the D vs R divide. But that's simply the window dressing. The foundational principle is inherently the same - and progressive - one could argue, its merely expressed differently purely for political purposes.
Guess what word doesn't appear once in the peroration? "Bush." Which makes sense, because when W was the neo-con of the hour, Riehl was writing stuff like this:
It's unfortunate, I don't think I've ever seen such a lack of leadership in Washington as we are seeing today. Senator's and Representatives who proudly stood up to take what now appears to have been only a purely political stand by supporting and voting for a war they evidently never had the courage to see through. But not Bush. Foremost among many, he seems almost alone now, determined to stay the course.

Mistakes? Misjudgments? Certainly, though if one takes history apart, his are no more significant, or costly than so many of nearly all Presidents who have gone before. His crime is not so much what he has done, but what he will not do - turn away from a pledge he made to America post 9-11.
Riehl's got the right idea. While guys like Victor Davis Hanson are tying themselves into knots trying to explain how Obama's bullshit is different from Bush's, Riehl's just making like Bush never existed. And why shouldn't he? His audience is just as eager to forget.

UPDATE. Riehl's Bush defenestration process can be observed in an earlier post:
If we want to invoke 20/20 hindsight as argument, the single greatest threat to America when Reagan entered office was the Soviet Union. When he left office, that huge and dangerous enemy was destroyed - a thing of the past. Whatever his reasoning, and I've never second guessed it before this, Bush can not say the same for al Qaeda. Instead of focusing more exclusively on Afghanistan and the Pakistan border area, he widened the war to Iraq. I supported it then and still do.
In other words, mistakes were made, and Riehl continues to endorse them while admitting they were mistakes. Because why not? It's not like anyone's paying attention, and if one day a Republican is dropping the bombs, Riehl can say he was for it both before and after he was against it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

GOOD NEWS FOR MODERN MAN. I have to thank Kia for turning my attention to "Defiant Chastity" by Andy Nowicki. The essay starts with fulminations against them sexed-up kids:
If many immigrants to the United States are drawn to the economic opportunities and political freedoms promised by this nation whose very existence rests on the premise of “liberty,” they soon find their children under the spell of a very different kind of “American dream”—one with an unsavory hip-hop soundtrack and a pornographic storyline. In this debased cultural environment, boys learn to be groping, grubby, hedonistic “pimps” and “playas,” and girls learn to be angry, agendized *feministas* and brazen whores, if not both.
I'm going to make T-shirts thus emblazoned: "A *feminista* in the faculty lounge, a brazen whore in the bedroom." I bet I could sell a lot at church socials.

Among the sexual dissenters, Nowicki finds "the 'contemporary Christian' scene" an "all-too-brittle and toothless cultural phenomenon... relentlessly and determinedly bland, cleansed of bad words and racy content, the fare favored by this crowd is usually harmless, shorn of all rough edges." And what's good clean fare without harm?

He is more sympathetic to "one subspecies of the burgeoning punk scene called 'straight edge'" -- Sorry, Ian, like many another pioneer you've been erased from history -- "which makes clean living -- no booze, no drugs, no sex -- a kind of mandatory creed." But though the sXe kids "bring a needed sharp and pointed aesthetic... they generally lack a metaphysical orientation for all of their behavioral prescriptions."

Now it's time for Nowicki's big reveal:
Does chastity stand a chance, when such wholesaling bulldozing of traditional notions of restraint is so ubiquitous? Strangely enough, it does, at least among one particular, and rapidly growing, demographic: Mormons.
Yes, laugh, but Napoleon Dynamite and "Killers frontman and songwriter Brendon Flowers" show the LDS has youth appeal. So: Should right-thinking young'ns line up and get right with Joe Smith?
Lest the reader misunderstand: I am not Mormon, and I’m certainly not advocating a mass conversion to the LDS creed as crucial to any kind of moral resurgence among youth. But I certainly think that the example of Mormondom as a vigorous culture with a transcendent vision which advocates a sexual morality greatly at odds with the free-for-all of mainstream culture represents a model worthy of being followed, regardless of one’s personal beliefs.
"A Catholic in the pews, a Mormon in the bedroom." We'll have a Cafe Press store full of these shirts yet.

Oh, coda:
Indeed, if a hearty culture of chastity and temperance is to re-emergence, it will likely have to take the form of what Catholic author Peter Kreeft has provocatively called an “ecumenical jihad,” uniting moral conservatives of all faith traditions, including atheists and agnostics, against the blight of permissiveness which reigns in America and the West generally today.
I'm guessing that in ecumenical jihad, you get the 72 virgins, but you can only take them to the movies and then shake hands goodnight.

This is the sort of thing that would make James Poulos take up laudanum.
NEW VOICE COLUMN UP, about rightblogger reactions to the Libya adventure. Among the artifacts I didn't have time to get to: at Right Wing News, "The Real Reasons Behind Libya Attack: Petrobras, Soros, 3 Women, “New” U.N. Agenda." Oh, it's deep, people -- wheels within wheels!
Just before he flew to Brazil for his “vacation,” Obama had given permission for Brazil and Petrobras to install a first-ever large, underwater oil storage container in the Gulf of Mexico. Obama is in Brazil now attempting to curry favor for us to buy oil from Brazil. Is bombing Libya and interrupting oil drilling operations there going to improve George Soros’ investment in Petrobras? Is this what this is all about?
You may have been turned off by the author's characterization of Obama's diplomatic mission as a "vacation" (in quotes, though!), but ya gotta admit, making war on an oil-producing Arab nation is something no Republican president would do.

UPDATE. The themes I noticed remain viable, I see. "...our commander-in-chief is an effete vacillator who is pushed around by his female subordinates," says Mark Krikorian. And I must say, it's something to have Mark Steyn and Michael Potemra nodding along with the Daily Kos. If only it could last!